I had my laptop with me and an excellent freebie wifi connection at the Hotel Millenium but if you do need internet access then I noticed these two internet cafes. The first is the OK Internet Cafe which is located above the Cafe Simbol in the middle of the Shirok Sokak whilst the second is Makedonia in the covered bazaar at the top end of the city centre.
Obviously not having used them I can't attest to prices or reliability but the Makedonia certainly looked busy.
One of things I love about Southern Europe is being able to do things outdoors. In my case it's usually smoking and drinking but it's certainly good to see more intellectual pursuits followed.
OK This is another little tip written unashamedly as an excuse to use the pic but it does constitute a local custom - the guys from this domestic plumbing and appliances store must have been having a quiet day and so passed their morning playing chess. At first I thought they must have gotten busy and had to abandon their game but on closer inspection - Black got trounced.
Obvious being impressed with Bitola's many bars I was equally impressed with the local drinking culture. This is the sort of place where people go out to bars to socialise and have a proper drink unlike the majority of us Brits who go out to get drunk (or the french who go out to be seen and stay sober).
Anyway this is really just an excuse to use this pic. I was passing these guys with my camera and they asked me to take their pic and email it on to them.
It was my pleasure guys - Cheers!
The area which forms the present day Macedonia has historically always had a significant Jewish presence. In Medieval times the Jewish population was involved in trade, banking, medicine and law.
Just before World War II there were an estimated 8,000 Macedonian jews. During that war the occupying Bulgarian army, under orders from the Axis high command, arrested and trasported almost the entire Jewish populaton of the region to the extermination camp at Treblinka, in Poland. (Though one should note that Bulgaria itself refused to extradite its Jews).
Pre-war almost half of all Macedonian Jews resided in Bitola and the Jewish cemetery there, dating back to the late 15th century, is considered one of the oldest in the Balkans.
After the war there were no longer any Jews left in Bitola and cemetery was allowed to go to ruin and the graves and entranceway subject to anti-semitic vandalism.
In 1997 work began to have the cemetery repaired as a holocaust memorial, with an initiative from the Macedonian government and assistance from the US Commision for the Preservation of Heritage Abroad. Despite a solitary incident of juvenile vandalism in 2000 the cemetery has been renovated and is now an important historical monument.
If all you ever see of Bitola is the main street and the bits and bobs around the "Golden Line" you might think that life here must be pretty idyllic.
I suppose for much of the population it may not exactly be "idyllic" but most locals seemed to be happy enough. You don't have to venture far from the city centre though to be reminded that Macedonia is, by mid-European standards, still quite a poor country. The buildings become a bit shabbier, the pavements and roads are potholed and these guys seem to be eking out a living searching the dumpsters for recyclable garbage.
Note that the horses, although certainly not curried for show, seem well-looked after.
In Bitola there are lots and lots of green spaces, especially around the old part of town near the Isak Mosque and the Bazaar. This is something I love in a city and obviously the residents love them as well. On Friday morning these parks were busy from mid-morning on and every bench was occupied. As mentioned in the previous tip, lots of people use the park tables and benches to play games on but for others they are clearly an extension of their living rooms. In particular it seemed to me that the benches were full of men. I did see one or two women sitting down but it was the exception rather then the rule. The men, particularly older men, were having a great time, sitting, chatting and getting up to shake hands with every acquaintance that passed. Stories were exchanged, jokes told and there was much laughter and fun. The men in this picture, some of whom shared my bench for a while, were particularly lively and I couldn't help comparing their lifestyle with older people in Ireland, who spend the majority of each day indoors and often alone. They were friendly too, without being in the least bit intrusive and if they were surprised to find a burek-eating female sharing their bench, they certainly didn't show it.
For those who are not familiar with it, the 'Last of the Summer Wine' reference, is to a British TV show dealing with the antics of a group of older men in Yorkshire.
Playing games outdoors is very popular in Bitola. I spotted a lot of men playing what looked llike Dominoes and other games I didn't recognise. These varied from one person playing alone to whole tables of up to 9 or 10 participants all getting involved, either playing or observing and commenting. This particular game in the photo, is one I've never come across before and I'm quite curious to know what it is. There were just two people playing and the mood was intense. I watched for a while and both men were concentrating hard and taking a long time to plot their next moves.
The Manaki brothers (Ianachia and Milton) were born in the little Aromanian village of Avdella, now in Greece but that belonged to the “vilayet” of Manastir (Bitola). They were the first photographers and filmmake, in the Balkans. They learned filmmaking in Lyon with the Lumiere brothers and bought their first movie camera in London. They realized the first movie in the Balkans in 1905. Every year, they are celebrated in Bitola on the occasion of a the “annual Manaki Brothers International Film Camera Festival», the oldest camera festival in the world. Their archives are kept at the Macedonian state cinematheque and give an invaluable view on the Balkans between 1905 and 1924.
The locals love to sit on the pavement cafes drinking coffee and watching the world go by. See and be seen, mostly.
It's fun on a warm spring day.
My version involves beer - at least in the evening - and my fellow VTers seemed to agree.
If it happens to visit Bitola from 27 of July to 2 of August. Than you have to take part in Ilindenski Denovi Folk Festival.
Folk groups from all over the world take part in it. Its great fun.